January Pieces Of My Mind #2

Monuments in conversation at Millesgården
  • How to identify a female Medieval scribe’s burial: lapis lazuli powder in her dental calculus. Excellent work!
  • Sudden realisation: Cardigan is an Anglicised version of Welsh Ceredigion.
  • After twelve days on the dole I’ve signed on to temp-teach high school Swedish for six weeks, full time, respectable salary, short commute. And after that I’ve got something else looking promising. Happy to be employable!
  • Sudden realisation: tomato ketchup is a type of English brown sauce, akin to HP sauce. It has nothing to do with Italian cooking.
  • If I ever come into the political media spotlight, it will be interesting to see how my opponents deal with 25 years of relentless, copious, dirty and absurd joking online.
  • I knew that Ursula LeGuin’s parents were renowned anthropologists and that she went to high school with P.K. Dick. I did not know that her best school buddy was John Steinbeck’s niece.
  • *sings* Don’t mess with my Desmond Tutu / Don’t mess with my Desmond Tutu
  • I program my home computer / Beam myself into the 90s
  • My new job at this high school is just across the highway from my first job during high school. I did IT support.
  • I spent the morning reading and writing horror fiction and poetry with a charming group of nursing students.
  • Jrette tries to do her homework on women’s suffrage, but the school’s porn filter keeps her from googling “number of female bosses”.
  • The Book of Dead Names: H.P.Lovecraft’s heart-warming and dramatic memoir of the early trans movement in 1920s Providence, RI.
  • Keep coming back to this. I have a really hard time understanding that the skills I spent a quarter century honing are worth so little on the market, while stuff I just sort of picked up along the way or did for fun or was born with is in high demand and really well paid.
  • There’s loads of accordion on the Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice”.
  • I’ve got to visit my old primary school this autumn on a windy day to check if leaves still dance in that corner next to the main entrance.
  • Why teenagers don’t wear caps, wear gloves or button up their jackets in winter: the pain of getting super cold is not as intense as the pain of possibly being considered not cool by other teenagers.
  • Found my first ancestor in the nobility, a woman in generation 12. That generation contains 4096 people or a bit less. My blood is not particularly blue.
  • Movie: Zoolander (2001). Spoof on the fashion industry with two extremely daft models and innumerable celebrity cameos, including an unfit future US president. Grade: OK.
  • The celebrity cameos in Zoolander made me a little queasy. Because they’re from 2001. And I kind of think of all those people from ~18 years ago as current celebrities.
Lidingö: walking from Dalénum to Millesgården
This is my most recent ready-made piece of installation art. It is titled “Academia”.


Author: Martin R

Dr. Martin Rundkvist is a Swedish archaeologist, journal editor, skeptic, atheist, lefty liberal, bookworm, boardgamer, geocacher and father of two.

140 thoughts on “January Pieces Of My Mind #2”

  1. If Parmigiano-Reggiano is a DOC, then passing off counterfeits of it will be harder in the EU than elsewhere. A DOC label is a guarantee that the product is made in a certain way and comes from a specific geographic location. In the EU calling something “French champagne” is redundant, because Champagne is a DOC. Cheddar has also been a DOC, but will probably lose that status with Brexit. So if Parmigiano-Reggiano is a DOC, than if Birger can find any of it in his local supermarket, he should have a high degree of confidence that it’s the real thing.

    Outside the EU, of course a DOC (especially a well-known one) is a target for food counterfeiters. Mainland China is especially notorious for that, but I’m sure it’s an issue elsewhere. Sometimes the imitation product is still good, as with cheddar cheese in the US: the American companies making and selling that stuff are generally doing so with no evil intent. But there are places where that can be a problem–again, mainland China is especially notorious for that.


    1. We’re mixing two things: food and drug safety, and counterfeiting, although the two categories bleed into one another. China is very bad in the first category; a lot of bad stuff has happened, and will go on happening. It is a very big country with a vast population, and someone is going to be doing something bad somewhere in China at any given time. That’s not the same as bad stuff happening everywhere in the country all the time. And the bad stuff that has happened has been aimed at the domestic market, not export. Other countries are too vigilant about the safety of food imports, and they are especially vigilant about anything coming in from China. Most of the pork consumed in HK comes from the Mainland, but it comes in as live pigs, huge numbers of them trucked and railed in every day, which then go to abattoirs in HK – the local authorities won’t trust already-butchered pork coming from the Mainland. We get most of our vegetables from the Mainland, but the HK authorities are very vigilant about pesticide residues and pathogenic bacteria.

      We shouldn’t be blinded to the fact that food safety issues arise in other countries too, though. There has been a recent spate of them in Australia, and I’m sure you can recall some of those that have happened in the USA; I can. It’s a global concern.

      But counterfeiting is a different thing. When the international trade in Parmigiano-Reggiano is 10 times the amount of the genuine product that is being produced, it tells you that counterfeiting, including counterfeiting of all of the requisite EU documentation, is big business. And I’ll bet anything you like that none of that counterfeited Parmesan is being produced in China. That’s being produced in Europe, and possibly even in a region of Italy close to where the genuine stuff is produced. The product is not unsafe to eat, it’s just not the genuine stuff.


      1. Yes, that’s a real head scratcher.

        But even just the domestication of maize was a pretty amazing process – there’s nothing about teosinte to suggest that if you play around with it you can breed a major food-producing crop, or actually several.

        Aboriginal people had some things a bit like that – toxic plants that needed to be put through some very involved processing to render them edible. No one knows how they managed to figure that out – trial and error, and hard luck on the test subjects until they got it right? What made them even try? The processing is hard work and needs to be got just right.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. MSM get more like The Onion every day, mostly unconsciously, but sometimes deliberately. This story in this morning’s West Australian newspaper had to be deliberate; journalist enjoying himself taking the piss: “Instagram down around the world. The picture-sharing platform Instagram suffered a global outage on Tuesday, leaving thousands of people around the world unaware what their friends were eating.”

    Some of the quotes in the piece from Instagram users on Twitter were hilarious. “Sending thoughts and prayers to all the unpublished cheese pulls, selfies and outfits of the day.” “Instagram seems to be down, is everyone okay out there? All my models and influencers coping okay?” “What the heck!!! Instagram is down. Guess I will just have to wait to post my workout stuff till it comes back.”

    Ask not when the Idiocracy will happen. We’re already in it.


    1. I would argue that the comparison to Idiocracy is unfair to the fictional President Camacho. He at least understood that he was dealing with a problem that was beyond his skill, so he sought out the smartest person he could find, and he listened to that man’s advice. There are multiple national leaders in the so-called real world who lack the humility to realize that they are in over their heads, much less seek the advice of people who might actually know something.


  3. Cheese, cheese and more cheese:

    “dairy products are a daily part of the diet for many living in Europe, northern India, and North America” – they missed parts of Africa. Given that most of human history occurred within Africa and most human diversity resides there, it’s confusing to say the least the way that it is routinely overlooked. The piece starts by talking about how ancient Egyptians had cheese and evidently greatly valued it, omitting to observe that Egypt is in Africa.


  4. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy/article/2184351/china-builds-rescue-centre-artificial-spratly-island-south

    Now do people get it? Shipping lanes in the South China Sea are extremely busy, also subject to very hazardous tropical storms, and piracy. Most of China’s trade travels through them, plus the trade of a lot of other countries. Ships frequently get into trouble, and without forward outposts in the SCS, China and other countries couldn’t mobilize rescue services fast enough, or at all. China not only mounts rescue operations for its own shipping, it does it for everyone, and is the only country in the region with the resources to do it.


  5. Company annual dinner had 580 kg of surplus food left over. More than half a metric tonne. They have arranged to send it to a charity: stale left-overs and some probably only marginally safe to eat, but it’s pretty inexcusable.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This was an event for what, a few thousand people at most? Sounds like poor planning on the part of the people who put this together.


      1. Total staff 3,500. Assume 2/3 attended, and 1/3 of them took a partner, so yeah, 3,000+ tops.

        Not just poor planning; it’s all built around a culture of celebratory food bingeing and excessive supplies of food being symbolic of success and ‘rewarding’ staff. People are the company’s only resource; they would do a lot better to take much better care of them for the other 364 days/year than just one big excessive food splurge. Annual staff turnover is 30%, which is astronomical when the industry regards 15% as already worryingly high.

        My attitude to staffing – recruit quality rather than quantity, and then take good care of them, treat them like humans and give them a good career path. Just arses on seats gets you nothing except masses of low quality output, which is worthless. I have had really a lot of experience with recruitment of professional engineers compared to most people, but when I volunteered my services to my boss to help with recruiting, he said oh no, no need – we will just employ anyone. And that’s what they do – employ just anyone, pay them peanuts to work excessively long hours churning out repetitive crap, and then get rid of them the very minute they run out of endless tedious, stupid reports for them to churn out, which they do just by accessing records from previous projects and copying without understanding or innovating. Whatever happened to the paperless office idea? We are paving roads through Hell with mountains of useless paper.

        I feel like I am now constantly bombarded with messages – my left ear is continually filled with moralising vegans saying that current methods of farming and patterns of human food consumption are destroying the planet with climate change, and how we should all be living on quinoa and buckwheat and how 50g of protein/day is more than enough for any adult, while my right ear is constantly hammered by advertising and messages about excessive food consumption, much of it unsustainable.


      1. Using CRISPR on humans is like deleting seemingly useless software on your PC when you don’t know everything that it does. Not so bad on a PC, you can restore the lost functions that are essential to you.

        Chinese geneticist who CRISPRed twin embryos and announced he had done it in HK in November has been under house arrest in the Mainland ever since. Twin girls have since been born – seem to be OK, but it’s very early days.


  6. Age estimates for hominin fossils and the onset of the Upper Palaeolithic at Denisova Cave.

    Questionable assigning pretty sophisticated material culture to Denisovans when it considerably post-dates last known Denisovan occupation. No evidence of subsequent modern human occupation at that time, but absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. When you don’t know the answer due to insufficient information, don’t guess, just say you don’t know.


  7. Deliveries of beer supplies have been suspended in Chicago. That’s terrible. In weather conditions colder than some parts of Antarctica, I can imagine nothing worse than not being able to get a cold beer.

    This lack of beer keeps getting reported in Australian MSM as if it is clear evidence of a major humanitarian disaster.


    1. The reason the Pilgrims settled in Massachusetts, rather than continuing to their intended destination of Manhattan, was because they had run out of beer.

      Also, certain media barons, among them Rupert Murdoch, like to push the idea that Chicago is a barely functional city. It does have some bad neighborhoods, but most of the bad stuff you hear about Chicago is hype.


      1. Beer was vitally important to them then – not only safer to drink than water where they had come from, plus most people in that era in the UK lived on a diet of whole grain bread and not much else, which induced chronic constipation unless they washed it down with a lot of beer, which had a laxative effect. Also, the beer they normally drank was a lot weaker than modern full strength beer; just enough alcohol to kill the pathogens in the water.

        Lesser known fact – Mongolians drink kumis for its laxative properties. They are lactose intolerant, and horse milk is higher in lactose than from any other domesticated milk producing animal.


  8. The massive die-off of indigenous American peoples in the 16th century, and subsequent drop in atmospheric CO2, may be linked to the Little Ice Age, says a recently published paper. At least, that’s what I gather from the BBC News report on it.


  9. About a battle in 202BC between the armies of Chu and Han, resulting in a decisive victory for the Han.

    Henan Province is rightly regarded as the cradle of the Chinese civilization. But today Henan is one of the more backward and impoverished Provinces, although very heavily populated. If it was a country, it would be the 14th largest country in the world by population, but a very poor, under-developed one. I would like to go there out of archaeological interest, but probably wouldn’t enjoy the ‘facilities’.

    Have you ever been, Martin?

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Influx of workers/slaves from the south to replace loss through pandemics? Sahara would block epidemics, so there would be an intact pool of people.


  11. “Where are the bodies from big battles” at Youtube is informative, and depressing. The soldiers were used up, then used again after death.


  12. The Little Ice Age was antropogenic?
    So, if 50 million people die, a lot of atmospheric carbon will go into the overgrown fields. …


    1. People on high fibre diets expel 3 times the volume of fart gas that people on low fibre diets expel. So if they were really serious about tackling climate change, they would execute all of the vegetarians and vegans, and use them as fertilizer to grow vast areas of forest.


  13. Sorry Eric, I had not read your comment .

    Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, strongly condemned FGM after a couple has been found guilty of mutilating their 3-year old daughter.


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